A theme of this season, is time stuck in place. Despite the change of the 60s, Mad Men’s characters have disconnected themselves and thus are largely unaffected. Don is still at his affairs, Joan can’t shake being seen as a secretary, the real secretaries can’t stop having affairs with their bosses and even the ad-pitching, feels remarkably familiar to the early 60s years.
Joan is the standout of this episode, "To Have and To Hold". It’s quietly heartbreaking to see her reaction to Harry’s insults and how the men of the office, have the image of busty secretary too ingrained in their minds. Females like Kate and Dawn have nothing but respect, but Joan only sees who lacks it. Ironically with Joan starting the show telling Peggy to follow her female role, Joan now would have more to learn from Peggy’s personality. 1960 belonged to Joan and Betty, 1968 belongs to Peggy and Megan.
Don continues to be an off the charts hypocrite, with his berating of Megan’s kissing scene despite what he does at night. When offered the foursome, I suspect what held Don back from embracing it, is he didn’t want to share Megan. Just as Don’s pitching moves belong to him, which is why it likely stung him to see Peggy take them. Sylvia telling Don she’s praying for him stuck out to me, because it’s a sign she understands his disturbance more than anyone and is willing to challenge it. I continue to believe Sylvia is the best long term fit for Don’s sanity for this reason, not that he’ll realize it.
When Pete had his affair, I reacted by assuming he wanted to emulate Don and Roger’s. Harry’s is different. I see Harry’s wants as fundamentally more shallow. Harry pushing the Joe Namath special in Bill Hicks “Suck Satan’s Cock” style came down to Harry getting money and credit for it, with no deeper need beyond that. Likewise I suspect Harry’s affair with the secretary comes down to being attracted to a hot girl, no more and no less. Perhaps these motives are admirable in a way. At the same time, the irony of the Harry and Joan feud is they both aim at respect worthy of a partner, beyond the ingrained images their early days at the company created. Yet they cannot see how similar they are in that respect.
“To Have and To Hold” felt a wee bit light on important plot developments and is not a standout episode for the show, but nonetheless, it’s still Mad Men.